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Attempting the Art of Craft and the Craft of Art

Michael Martone

Publication Year: 2005

Unconventions is a quirky and provocative miscellany that reveals Michael Martone's protean interests as a writer and a writing teacher. Martone has, shall we say, a problem with authority. His chief pleasure in knowing the rules of his vocation comes from trying out new ways to bend, blend, or otherwise defy them. The pieces gathered in Unconventions are drawn from a long career spent loosening the creative strictures on writing. Including articles, public addresses, essays, interviews, and even a eulogy, these writings vary greatly in form but are unified in addressing the many technical and artistic issues that face all writers, particularly those interested in experimental and nontraditional modes and forms.

Martone's approach has always been to synthesize, to understand and use any technique, formula, or style available. “I find myself, then,” he writes, “self-identifying as a formalist, both and neither an experimenter and/or a traditionalist.” In “I Love a Parade: An Afterword,” Martone writes about not fitting in--and loving it--as he recalls the time he marched alone in a local Labor Day parade, as a one-person delegation from the National Writers Union. Elsewhere, in writings formally, stylistically, purposely at odds with themselves, Martone's expansive curiosity is on full display. We learn about camouflage techniques, how a baby acquires language, how to “read” a WPA-era post office mural, and why Martone sold his stock in the New Yorker and reinvested his money in the company that makes Etch A Sketch®.

Unconventions, then, is Martone's “Frankensteinian monster,” a kind of unruly, hybrid spawn of the mainstream writing enterprise. “Writing seems to me an intrinsic pleasure, an end in itself first,” says Martone. “The question for me is not whether my writing, or any piece of writing, is good or bad but what the writing is and what it is doing and how finally it is used or can be used by others.”

Published by: University of Georgia Press

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pp. ix

I wish to thank Peter Turchi and the faculty at the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, where many of these pieces were first delivered, and the AWP and its director, David Fenza, who also provided a convention platform and parliament of press for these papers. R.,M. Berry, W. Scott Olsen, John Witte, David...

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I Love a Parade: An Afterword

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pp. 1-9

The unit in front of me is a freshly detailed Ford Mustang convertible transporting (the hand-painted sign reads) Little Miss Cutie Pie of Western Alabama. Behind me is another gleaming convertible, a pastel Caddy this time, where, in its backseat, the reigning Miss Junior Petite Darling of Tuscaloosa County purposely practices...

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Be Seated: Attempting the Art of Craft and the Craft of Art

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pp. 10-15

For a while there, I lived in Syracuse, New York, in the Westcott neighborhood not far from the university and a few blocks from the house that had been built and then inhabited by the designer and philosopher of the Arts and Crafts movement, Gustav Stickley. The distinctive furniture Stickley designed over a century ago is...

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Whose Story Is It? Framing the Frame or Writing Bad on Purpose Purposely

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pp. 16-19

I have my students write bad stories. It is, of course, very hard to do, perhaps even more difficult than writing (as they assume they are doing most of the time) good stories. That is to say, it goes without saying that a workshop is about producing a good story. Assigning the task of creating a bad story actually makes the transparency...

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Pygmies Dressed as Pygmies

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pp. 20-26

"I don't know, what do you want to do?" So begins an amazing scene recorded in The Forest People, an anthropological record of African forest pygmies Colin Turnbull lived with for several years. These forest people, as you might guess, were hunter-gatherers living in primeval jungle. Groups such as these also traded with people of...

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The Tyranny of Praise

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pp. 27-31

I was standing in line waiting to use an outdoor ATM built into the wall of the Schine, the student activity center at Syracuse University, where I used to teach. Waiting behind me was a colleague, a poet, from the creative writing program, and I turned to talk with him. It was spring, a truly lovely and rare couple of minutes in the...

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Welcome to Baltimore (aka) Charm City (colon): A Charm Bracelet of Half-Baked Delicacies, or Xenophon’s Anabasis and the Collapse of the Avant-Garde into Waves of Ecstasy

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pp. 32-39

I delivered a second paper at the 2003 AWP convention in Baltimore. "Welcome to Baltimore" was part of a panel on the avant-garde put together by R. M. Berry, publisher of FC2 and professor at Florida State University. The piece was republished on-line at the Electronic Book Review. I was reading Xenophon as the country was preparing for war in...

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My Situation

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pp. 40-45

For the last few years I have been writing fictions that attempt to pass as nonfictions. I recently published a book called The Blue Guide to Indiana, which is a fake travel guide. Passages from the book have been published in Indiana newspapers as actual reporting, feature articles on what to do this weekend or suggestions for...

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Selling Stories Short

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pp. 46-49

A few years ago I learned that the New Yorker was traded publicly over the counter. I bought a few shares. And over the years, whenever I had a little extra money, I'd buy a few more. All that time I was sending my stories to the same magazine, but the magazine wasn't buying...

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Space Dome

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pp. 50-59

Where are you when you are on hold? And when you finally get through to that 800 operator, where do the two of you meet? I always ask now when I do get through to order from a catalog or make a reservation. Where are you? The answer comes back. Omaha, say, or Rapid City, or some fringe city outside Atlanta. But, we...

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Four Factual Anecdotes on Fiction

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pp. 60-66

At the end of the Second World War, my grandfather responded to a radio appeal broadcast by General Mark Clark, who was governing occupied Austria, for Americans to send packages of food and other vital necessities to the refugees, displaced persons, and homeless civilians of a devastated Europe. That very...

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Mount Rushmore: Four Brief Essays on Fictions

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pp. 67-70

Freud fucked us up, this Father business. The Mother business as well. He, Sigmund, is the inventor of the modern novel, is the novelist of the twentieth century, the founder of the form. He is the Father—that again—of the notion of Character and even more importantly the notion of the character of Character, this...

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Trying: An Introduction to Introduction: Four Found Introductions

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pp. 71-74

I am a contributing editor to the Colorado Review. In 2001 David Milofsky, then the editor of the magazine, asked me to put together a special edition of experimental fiction. He also asked me to write a brief introduction. This is it. The title of the resulting anthology was Trying Fiction...

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Make Nothing Happen

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pp. 75-76

I write about Indiana. I consider myself a regionalist. "The Moon over Wapakoneta" is from a new book of short fiction called Planet Indiana. It is my attempt to remain true to my regional subject matter while combining it with a new, for me, genre. In this case, that would be science fiction. Science Fiction Regionalism...

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The Moon over Wapakoneta

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pp. 77-84

When the moon is like it is now, hanging over Ohio, I come over to Wapakoneta from Indiana, where I am from. I am legal in Ohio, and the near beer they can sell to minors is so near to the real thing it is the real thing. I told you I was drunk. The foam head of this beer glows white in the dull light like the white rubble of...

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Appliances: Domestic Detail and Describing Rituals of the Ordinary

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pp. 85-97

As a writer of short fiction, I am interested in the monologue. Recently I discovered a book, Narratives from the Crib edited by Katherine Nelson, which is the first extensive study of language acquisition and its relationship to the private babble a child makes before sleep. Other studies of language acquisition are...

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The History of Corn

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pp. 98-116

Above the postmaster's door, you see a picture of one kernel of corn. It hangs there as large as a side of beef and painted in those tequila sunrise hues, yellow blending to orange shading to a reddish brown, that are also the stripes of candy corn. At the same time, you can see into the seed through a heart-shaped...

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Ruining a Story

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pp. 117-131

I was in the third grade and had just seen, with a group of my friends, the movie A Hard Day's Night starring the Beatles. We were much taken with the movie and the Beatles, so we decided to put on a show at Bill Stuckey's house using the garage there because it was the only one we knew that opened automatically. We could...

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How to Hide a Tank: Camouflage, Realism, and Believing Our Eyes

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pp. 132-149

His head was the size of a pea, the carved furrows of his beard like the wrinkles on a raisin. I crossed my eyes, focusing on the point of my 000 sable brush. There trembled a speck of gloss-black paint, a droplet smaller than the period at the end of this sentence, that would become the pupil of his eye once I applied it to the center...

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The War in the Forest: The Collected Work of James B. Hall

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pp. 150-156

I have been thinking about Audie Murphy. Murphy was the most decorated American soldier of World War II and died in a plane crash in 1970. I was thinking about him because Norman Schwarzkopf has been in the news again, this time submitting to interviews on television and in newspapers about his new...

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Adventures on the Cultural Landscape: An Epistolary Interview

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pp. 157-178

This interview is the product of two separate written documents. Fred Santiago Arroyo mailed Michael Martone a series of questions, some of which focus on his own aesthetic obsessions and some which he thought were "appropriate for an interview." Michael Martone then wrote out his responses to Fred's questions and sent...

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In Memory of Richard Cassell

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pp. 179-183

When I was going to school at Butler in the mid-1970s, I lived in Ross Hall on the third floor in the front, above the main door, with a window that looked out onto Hampton Street and the campus beyond. My roommate, Bob Sullivan, another English major, was trying to decide whether to follow Thomas Merton into the Trappist...

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After Words: A Foreword

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pp. 184-192

Anna Leahy asked me to write this afterword for an anthology she was putting together called The Authority Project that collected papers on the pedagogy of creative writing. I wrote it last summer, the summer of 2004, beginning on Memorial Day while the war was going on in Iraq, at about the time of the first revelation of American torture in the prisons...

E-ISBN-13: 9780820330778
E-ISBN-10: 0820330779
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820327785
Print-ISBN-10: 0820327786

Page Count: 204
Publication Year: 2005